Jaylan Gainey’s putback dunk with 3.5 seconds left resulted in an 81-80 Brown win at Cornell Saturday that has huge implications for the Ivy League Tournament race.
Here’s what to take away from the memorable finish for Brown (12-13, 4-6 Ivy) and Cornell (13-8, 5-5):
- The Ivy men’s race just got more interesting
Brown now has a fighting chance in the Ivy League Tournament race, even if Cornell still has the inside track. Bruno has a 22.3% shot of making the tourney after the win, still a far cry from the Big Red’s 68.7%, according to friend of Ivy Hoops Online Luke Benz’s analysis:
But three of Brown’s final four games are at home, while three of Cornell’s last four contests are on the road. Since the Bears and Big Red have split their season series, the next head-to-head tiebreaker would be each team’s record against the highest seed outside the tie. Brown has matchups with all three teams above it and Cornell in the Ivy standings – Princeton and Penn next weekend at home and at Yale in the season finale.
The Big Red hold this tiebreaker by virtue of their win over Princeton, but they’ve got only one more opportunity to strengthen that tiebreaker when they host Yale on Feb. 26.
The race for the No. 4 seed could go down to the wire.
2. Jaylan Gainey comes up big again
Gainey was KenPom’s game MVP for the second contest in a row, contributing 16 points on 7-for-11 shooting and nine rebounds, including five on the offensive end. Hopefully Gainey’s game-winner attracts more attention to the terrific campaign he’s had as a senior. Gainey leads the Ivy League in field goal percentage by a wide margin (67.1% to second-place Tosan Evbuomwan’s 53.7% for Princeton) and blocks by a similarly commanding distance (two per game versus second-place Isaiah Kelly’s 0.9 for Yale).
Gainey has become more assertive offensively as Ivy play has progressed, a trend that bodes well for the stretch run. Gainey has recorded five blocks in two of Brown’s last three games against Yale, and he’ll be key in Brown’s matchup at Yale that could give the Bears a potential tiebreaker in the scrum for the Ivy tourney’s No. 4 seed.
Even though Gainey was named Ivy Defensive Player of the Year in 2019-20, his stellar play anchoring the conference’s top scoring defense doesn’t get the plaudits it should.
3. Not cleaning the defensive boards cost Cornell
The offensive rebound leading to Gainey’s game-winning putback was Brown’s 14th offensive board of the game. Cornell managed just four. The Big Red have been outrebounded on the offensive end by a combined margin of 35-16 in their last three losses.
That’s an especially troubling trend for Cornell given that it wants to push the tempo, having the third-quickest average possession length in the country per KenPom behind only Gonzaga and St. John’s. Also in the Ivy League’s bottom half in offensive rebound percentage are Cornell’s next two opponents, Dartmouth and Harvard, giving the Big Red a better opportunity to correct this issue in next weekend’s high-stakes New England road trip.